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17 August 2022, Gateway House

75 years of development cooperation

Since 1947, India has had a proud record of development cooperation. It began even though it was newly independent and itself developing, but created a camaraderie with movements in other emerging countries. Now after 75 years, its time to move toward an FDI-led model, which will particularly help reduce the rising indebtedness in the developing world.

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The advent of globalisation promised countries in the Global South the benefits of equitable and free trade as well as additional financing for sustainable development. In reality, these have become new tools of control with sanctions, non-tariff barriers and preferences dominating and leaving the less-developed adherents of globalisation shell-shocked. This became pronounced after the pandemic and the new European war. A bipolar order is emerging again. But it is a multipolar economic order, backed by larger development cooperation among countries of the global South, that is needed.

For the last 75 years since its independence, India has a proud record of development cooperation. India began in 1949 with cooperative efforts for Burma and Indonesia, through technical cooperation. This was successful, and became the basis for expansion to several initiatives in Asia and Africa.

India found its development partnership approach through the ethos of the national movement. It created a camaraderie with movements in other emerging countries. Colonization, Apartheid and underdevelopment were among the major challenges in the 1950s. Despite its resource constraints, India unhesitatingly offered its development experience to countries which wished to engage. India thus started its own model of development cooperation well before the UN’s technical cooperation for Development Cooperation (TCDC) emerged in 1978[1].

India was the first mover and its development cooperation remained unconditional and responsive to partner priorities. It emphasised capacity-building, particularly the development of human resources. There was respect for equal partnerships and varied efforts were made to make cooperation sustainable and welcome. Among the earliest institutions established by India overseas was the Imperial Military Academy in Harar, Ethiopia in 1958. It trained the military officers of several African countries, and showed an early regional approach.[2]

A survey of African interlocutors in 2021 showed that 60% of developing countries viewed human resource development and scholarships as among the most valuable elements of India’s development cooperation.[3] India’s development partnerships continue, and are acceptable and successful because it listens to its partners. Developing countries see in India a model of pluralism, democracy, emerging economy and strategic autonomy that many wish to emulate. There is value attached to the way Indian institutions have developed and maintained themselves and even while India pursued self-reliance (Atmanirbhar) in many fields such as technology, while engaging the world on its own terms.

India’s development cooperation instruments include the lines of credit (LoC) under the Indian Development and Economic Assistance Scheme (IDEAS) 2003,[4] grant assistance, small development projects, technical consultancy, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Most are undertaken in parallel with capacity-building programmes through the Indian technical and economic cooperation. (ITEC) programme.[5] A 2021 survey showed that among all Indian programmes in Africa, ITEC had the best recall.[6]

ITEC was established in 1964, when United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) was created, the second Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit was held in Cairo and the G77 emerged. ITEC was a manifestation of these ideals. It did not depend on theoretical South-South cooperation, but offered India’s institutions and experience for sharing. It covered both civilian and military aspects. ITEC initially covered Asian countries, then expanded to Africa and now covers over 150 countries, including in Central Asia,[7] Latin America, the Caribbean, and the South Pacific.[8]

Over the years, India has contributed to plurilateral funds for achieving these development goals including through the India-Brazil-South Africa, (IBSA) fund[9] and India-UN Development Partnership.[10]

India’s development effort is mainly a non-profit activity, which is supported through grants. The ITEC programme annual budget is ₨ 220 crores. It has rapidly expanded with the institutionalised cooperation with ASEAN and Africa. The India-ASEAN fund of $ 50 million, which is replenished, is the basis of Indian support to ASEAN countries, particularly Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam, (CLMV).[11] This, and the India Africa Forum Summit (IAFS), significantly augmented India’s grant programmes.[12]

The greater impact is through the concessional LoCs for major projects in developing countries. Primarily focussed on India’s neighbourhood and Africa, over 15 years $32 billion has been provided with $12 billion to 41 African countries alone. The funds often required private participation, and the LoCs have facilitated the Indian private sector to venture into markets beyond their familiar geographies. A model for Indian private sector intervention in continental Africa emerged, with companies qualifying for internationally-funded projects. The LoCs catalysed foreign direct investment by India too, particularly in. Tanzania, Mozambique and Ethiopia, the main LoC borrowers in Africa, bringing Indian private investment in Africa to $73.9 billion and trade to the $89.5 billion mark in 2021[13].

Now is the time to upgrade and revamp the 75-year-old development cooperation model, to reflect current realities. An India Development Initiative was recommended at the CII Africa Conclave in July, which can bring in the talents of business, academia, thinktanks with relevant government departments for finding a new, post-Belt and Road Initiative, post-pandemic, post-Ukraine crisis approach to development cooperation.[14] The grants and LOCs need to work in tandem and broaden their scope to have an FDI-led approach, whose main benefit will be to reduce the rising debt stress across the developing world.[15]

Gurjit Singh was India’s ambassador to Germany, Indonesia, Ethiopia, ASEAN and the African Union.

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[1] Buenos Aires Plan of Action (1978), UN Office for South-South Cooperation,

[2] Remembering the Harar Military Academy, to Commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Its Establishment, Embassy of India, Addis Ababa, 2009, pp20/21

[3] Gurjit Singh, ‘Survey Among African Respondents on India as a Development partner for Africa, The Harambee Factor: India-Africa Economic and Development partnership, Macmillan/ICWA 2021, p 407-412

[4] Indian Development and Economic Assistance Scheme (IDEAS), Department of Economic Affairs, 7 December 2015,

[5] Indian Technical & Economic Cooperation Programme (ITEC), MEA,

[6] Gurjit Singh, ‘Survey Among African Respondents on India as a Development partner for Africa, The Harambee Factor: India-Africa Economic and Development partnership, Macmillan/ICWA 2021, p 407-412

[7] The First Meeting of the India-Central Asia Summit, 19 January 2022, MEA,,

[8] Dr Stuti Banerjee, India’s Outreach to the Island Nations: Summits with CARICOM and the FIPIC, ICWA, 1 November 2019,

[9] IBSA Fund, IBSA Forum,

[10] India-UN Development Partnership Fund, UN Office for South-South Cooperation,

[11] Initiative for ASEAN Integration & Narrowing Development Gap (IAI & NDG), ASEAN,

[12] Aggregation of the announcements at 3 IAFS and bilateral commitments. See Gurjit Singh, ‘Spring Blossoms’ in The Harambee Factor, India-Africa Economic and Development partnership, Macmillan/ICWA 2021 p60-88

[13] Statistics from Address by External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar at the 17th CII-EXIM Bank Conclave on India-Africa Growth Partnership, MEA, 19 July 2022,

[14] Brought out at session on ‘India Development Initiatives: The Harambee Factor’, 17th CII-EXIM Bank Conclave on India-Africa Growth Partnership, 20 July 2022 Session XII

[15] Gurjit Singh, COVID19: Africa awaits debt restructuring and a new life, ORF, 11 May 2020,

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